WEST MEXICO: JALISCO AND COLIMA WINGSWEST BIRDING FEB. 14-25, 2011
$2,295 per person double occupancy; $250 single supplement
DAY 1: Please select your flights to arrive in Puerto Vallarta by 2pm. Rather than stay in PVR our first night, our plan is to transfer to Rancho Primavera which is located in the foothills about 2 hours south from the airport. Rancho Primavera is a refreshing oasis worlds away from the commercial spectacle of PVR. Our hosts, Pat Morrow and her daughter Bonnie, have created a remarkable wildlife preserve from what was once a severely overgrazed cattle ranch. We will make one afternoon stop south of Puerto Vallarta where we have seen Bright-rumped Attila, Masked Tityra, and Citreoline Trogon. Dinner and night at Rancho Primavera
DAY 2: Our first full day of birding will take us lower in elevation through thorn forest habitat. Of the many possible sightings today, high on our radar will be White-bellied Wren, Flammulated Flycatcher, and Red-breasted Chat. We are likely to have our first (of many) encounters with Orange-breasted Bunting. Lunch will be back on the plaza in El Tuito. Afternoon birding will be at Rancho Primavera, leisurely watching the feeder show that often brings San Blas Jay, Black-vented Oriole, and various hummingbirds including Plain-capped Starthroat. After sunset, we are likely to see Pauraques foraging along the ranch roads. Dinner and night Rancho Primavera.
DAY 3: Today it’s time to go up rather than down. The nearby road to Provincia quickly takes us into pine/oak forest. In addition to the regulars found in this habitat, specialties such as Mexican Hermit, Military Macaw, and Black-headed Siskin occur. After lunch, we will return to the ranch for birding around several ponds. Stripe-headed Sparrow, Least Grebe, and Gray-crowned Woodpecker are all in the area. As sunset approaches, we will be on alert for Lilac-crowned Parrots going to roost. Following dinner on the ranch, we will attempt to call in the resident pair of Mottled Owls. Night Rancho Primavera
DAY 4: Sunrise finds us looking near HQ for several known pairs of Rosy Thrush-Tanagers, a misnamed species that looks and acts like a catbird-only with a breathtaking magenta chest and belly. After breakfast, it’s off to the coast as we begin our journey south. We may see Golden and Black-capped Vireos as we pass through lower thorn forest. At the estuary in Villa del Mar, both Wood Stork and Collared Plover are good possibilities. Lunch will be at the remote Playa Penitas where we have a chance to see Wandering Tattler on the rocky tidepools. After lunch, we will head further south to the estuary at Cruz de Loretto, where a we have seen Wilson’s Plover, Northern Jacana, and Bare-throated Tiger Heron. Then we will head south to our guest house at Rancho Cuixmala for the evening.
DAY 5: We have a rare opportunity this morning to visit Cuixmala Biosphere Preserve, an area usually reserved for scientists. Part of the tour price will include a donation to the efforts at this research station. Purchased by British financier James Goldsmith, this preserve has protected some impressive forest. The ringing calls of Thicket Tinamou (sorry, we are unlikely to see this shy forest floor denizen) are a reminder of the wildness that once ruled here. Venturing further into the preserve, we may encounter W. Mexican Chachalaca, White-throated Magpie Jay, Blue Bunting, and a host of wintering N. American songbirds. If birdbanding is happening, we will be able to view it in progress. As the day heats up, we will press on south. Following lunch, we will head to the highlands and the Las Joyas Research Station in the heart of the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve. This sanctuary protects some of the most pristine habitat remaining in southeast Jalisco. Night at research station.
DAY 6: Today we will explore the lush surroundings of Las Joyas where we may encounter Long-tailed Wood Partridge, Bumblebee Hummingbird, Crested Guan, and Singing Quail-the latter an extremely scarce species in W. Mexico. Other highland species to be sought include Flame-colored and Red-headed Tanagers, Mountain Trogon, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Green-striped Brushfinch, and Golden-browed Warbler. Lunch will be on the crest of the Sierra de Manantlan. In mid afternoon, we will begin our descent out of the preserve keeping an eye out for Green Jays as we go. As we pass through Ahuacapan we will listen for the local flock of Mexican Parrotlets. Night in Autlan.
DAY 7: Our first excursion into the shadow of a volcano is today. With an early departure we head east toward Nevado de Colima, a towering, snow-covered volcano near the Jalisco/Colima border. We will bird the upper slopes of the volcano in humid evergreen habitat. Our most sought after species will include Green Violetear, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, and Red Warbler. Night will be in the bustling city of Guzman.
DAY 8: Another volcano day! How many of us have experienced different volcanos two days in a row? Volcan del Fuego is the shorter (over 12,000’) of the two volcanos but the active one. Lots happening along the entry road that passes through farm country-Rusty Crowned Ground Sparrow, Spotted Wren, and our best chance to see Banded Quail. Higher up, we begin to enter pine/oak and the home of Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo, Dwarf Vireo, and Gray-barred Wren. The rollicking calls of Long-tailed Wood Partridge will be heard but whether we see this skulker will depend on our birding karma. Rarer possibilities include Gray-collared Becard and, overhead, Hook-billed Kite and Great Swallow-tailed Swift. Late afternoon we must pull ourselves away to head for our night in Ciudad Colima.
DAY 9: We will make a morning foray north from Colima to a known spot for Slaty Vireo. The Howell guide fails to do justice to this vibrant little songbird and we will make every effort to find it. In the same area we are likely to encounter Elegant Trogon and Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush. Higher up around a lake on the flank of Volcan del Fuego, we will search for Gray-crowned and Smoky Brown Woodpeckers as well as mixed species flocks of wintering warblers that may have the likes of Hermit and Black-throated Green side by side. After an authentic Mexican lunch at the nearby home of Dona Elena, we head back to Colima. Following a mid afternoon rest time, we are off to nearby El Cumbre home of the Black-chested Sparrow. This W. Mexican endemic is almost as big as a towhee! At the summit, while we wait for sunset, we will search for Rufous-naped Wren and the vocal but elusive Lesser Ground Cuckoo. After dark, we hope to call in the Balsas Screech Owl, a large screech owl with deep brown eyes. On our return to the hotel, we may flush Buff-collared Nightjar on our descent. Night in Colima.
Day 10: Today we descend out of the mountains to the Cuyutlan estuary. Our boat ride will place us in the mangrove domain of Anhinga, Purple Gallinule, Boat-billed Heron, and Snail Kite. As we leave the estuary on a wooden boardwalk, we are treated to numerous wintering songbirds including American Redstart and Northern Waterthrush. Later, we will check the Playa de Oro road for thorn forest species we may have missed. At the deserted beach at the end of the 6km road we will be able to scope an offshore island full of Brown Boobies and Red-billed Tropicbirds. Night in Barra de Navidad.
Day 11: From our base in Barra de Navidad, we head a short distance inland to an amazing canyon called Barranca El Choncho (local word for guan). This lush, humid canyon has a great mix of lowland and foothill species and may be our best chance for Red-crowned Ant Tanager, Fan-tailed Warbler, and Golden-crowned Emerald. After lunch in Barra, there will be a chance to shop in the myriad of stores along the waterfront. Night in Barra de Navidad
Day 12: As most departing flights out of Manzanillo are mid day, we will squeeze in some early birding in the bay at Barra where we can see various coastal birds including Black Skimmer and Roseate Spoonbill. As we head to the airport, our roadside birding in the marshes will give us a chance for a few, final new species such as Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, White-throated Flycatcher and Ruddy Crake. Then it’s time to say “Vaya con dios, y muchas gracias” as we catch our flights back to the states.